- March 18, 2018
- Posted by: Dimitri
- Category: Uncategorized
I stayed awake for over 100 hours. By day, we patrolled. By night, we dug.
The time I spent in the infantry taught me lessons most people will never get to learn.
Lucky for you, today I’m sharing these lessons.
In 2016, I completed my infantry training, and became a qualified Rifleman.
It was no cakewalk.
Our conventional warfare training consisted of 8 days in a simulated war environment, defending our position against waves of enemy attack.
At night, we dug. All you could hear was the clanging of metal on rock, as we dug our trenches to defend ourselves against the enemy.
The ground was hard, and by the second day my hands were so sore from digging, I struggled to even hold my rifle.
The medic said I had micro-fractures in my hands from the impact of the shovel smashing rock.
“The enemy doesn’t care, keep digging.” …And so I did. Somehow.
Lesson 1: In war, as in business, the enemy doesn’t care about your feelings.
Our commander would often yell at us “You’re tired? The enemy doesn’t give a f*ck.”
And it was true. We stayed up for 3 days straight defending the position because if we didn’t, we’d be killed.
The enemy doesn’t give a f*ck.
And what difference is there in business?
Someone out there is awake earlier than you, working harder than you, and is preparing to go to war with you.
There in only space in the market for one of you.
As dawn came, we would prepare for patrol.
We armoured up and moved out of our position for our daily patrol.
Lacking sleep, we walked.
For 14 hours, we walked.
With 45kg on our backs, we walked.
While we walked, we had to constantly focus on scanning the horizon for any signs of the enemy.
And when they came, we fought.
When we returned to our position just before sunset, all we could think about was sleep.
It rained. We were cold, our trenches were filling with water but we had to seek cover within them, or we’d be shot.
The enemy didn’t care.
This went on for 3 days.
We walked, and we dug.
Lesson 2: You’ve got more in the tank, so much more.
I thought I was done on day 1. The bones in my hands were literally broken from digging, I was tired, sore, barely able to think, but I went on… for another 8 days.
You have no idea how much your body and mind can truly withstand. Just keep going. Hard work isn’t going to kill you, but the enemy might.
By the third night, it wasn’t uncommon to see fellow soldiers fall asleep standing, between swings of their shovel.
And then the hallucinations started happening.
It was my watch, 0200hrs – 0400hrs.
Sitting behind the machine gun shivering and sore, I looked out into the distance and saw giant frogs, sitting and staring at me. They weren’t real.
I was too tired to be amused.
Then something worrying happened.
I made out a figure sitting under a tree.
An enemy soldier. But what was he doing, sitting so casually?
That can’t be right. Do I open fire?
Another hallucination. I was losing touch with reality.
Over the 8 days, something strange had happened.
I became detached from all emotion.
No longer ‘felt’ anything.
I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t sore.
I just acted.
It was a strange feeling that could only be experienced as a result of enduring the harshest conditions.
You need to be able to detach yourself from your emotions. Become an onlooker. Control yourself like a character in a video game.
Lesson 3: No emotion, just action.
At times, growing your business will take work.
The kind of work that is sucky, boring and tedious.
The kind of work that needs to be done for days on end, without joy.
But it has to be done. No emotion, just action. Get it done.
On the final day, we were boarding transport for an operation a few kilometres away.
As per protocol, we were unloading our weapons to board the truck.
I was tired. I had about 6 hours of sleep in the last 8 days.
I decided to take a shortcut.
To unload, we remove the ammo from weapon, and then ‘dry fire’ the gun – fire it without any ammo in order to complete the unloading process.
I skipped a minor step while unloading my machine gun. It resulted in me forgetting to remove the belt of ammo from the feeding tray – the tray the ammo sits on as it is fed into the chamber of the rifle when fired.
I proceeded to dry fire.
I accidentally fired three blank rounds because I skipped a step…
What followed was a lot of yelling, and eventually prosecution according to military laws.
I was charged with negligent discharge of my rifle.
Lesson 4: Use proven processes
While learning how to use our weapons, we learned very specific drills or processes. We had performed the “unload drill” thousands of times, so that when we were tired and sleep deprived, we wouldn’t accidentally discharge our weapons and potentially kill our brothers.
I strayed from the proven process, and paid for it.
In business, there are also processes and methods. Stick to them.
I wouldn’t wish the experience upon anyone, but what I learned has influenced the way I live on a day-to-day basis, and for that I am grateful.
Extreme hardship has its lessons, in any area of life. It could be the loss of a loved one, a failed business, not being able to afford a roof over your head.
Or it could be Defensive Operations Training.
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